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January 26, 2009

Lars Leafblad
Vice President, KeyStone Search (
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Personal notes from “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us” written by Seth Godin:

What is a tribe? “A group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and
connected to an idea. A group only needs two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a
way to communicate.”

People want connection, growth, and something new. We want change. “Human beings
can’t help it: we need to belong. One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is
to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people.”

Example of a new tribal leader? – Jacqueline Novogratz – CEO of Acumen Fund:

Tribe vs Movement? - “Some tribes are stuck. They embrace the status quo and drown
out any tribe member who dares to question authority and the accepted order. Big
charities, tiny clubs, struggling corporations – they’re tribes and they’re stuck.”

But they are “movement waiting to happen, a group of people waiting to be energized
and transformed. A movement is thrilling. It’s the work of many people, all connected, all
seeking something better. The new highly leveraged tools of the Net make it easier than
ever to create a movement, to make things happen, to get things done. All that’s missing
is leadership.”

Internet is just a tool, easy way to enable tactics. “The real power of tribes has nothing to
do with the Internet and everything to do with people.” There are opportunities for
everyone to find or assemble a tribe and lead it.

This book says something new. “Everyone is not just a marketer – everyone is now a
leader. Without leaders, there are no followers. You’re a leader. We need you.”

Tribes are about faith – about belief in an idea and in a community. Consumers are
deciding to spend their time and money on things that matter, things they believe in.

Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front
of their tribes, who create movements. Leadership is about creating change that you can
believe in.
Today marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services
with stories that spread. Marketing, the verb, changed the market. Today, the market
wants change. “Established 1906” used to be important. Now, apparently, it’s a liability.
The rush from stability is a huge opportunity for you.”

“All tribes are made up of partisans; the more partisans the better. If you’re a middle-of-
the-roader, you don’t bother joining a tribe. Partisans want to make a difference. Partisans
want something to happen (and something else not to happen). Leaders lead when they
take positions, when they connect with their tribes, and when they help the tribe connect
to itself.”

What does it take to create a movement?

• Happens when people talk to one another, when ideas spread within the
community, and most of all, when peer support leads people to do what they
always knew was the right thing
• Empower the tribe to communicate
• Establish the foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to
commanding people to follow them

What does it take to turn group of people into a tribe?

• A shared interest
• A way to communicate – one of four kinds
o Leader to tribe
o Tribe to leader
o Tribe member to tribe member
o Tribe member to outsider

Leader can help increase effectiveness of tribe and its members by:
• Transforming shared interest into passionate goal and desire for change
• Providing tools to allow members to tighten their communications
• Leveraging the tribe to allow it to grow and gain new members

“Tribes aren’t about stuff. They’re about connection. A virtuous cycle. The better you do,
the better you do. Connections lead to connections. Great ideas spread.”

How many fans do you have?

Read blog post by Kevin Kelly on “1,000 True Fans”:

“Too many organizations care about numbers, not fans. What they’re missing is the depth
of commitment and interconnection that true fans deliver. True leaders have figured out
that the real win is in turning a casual fan into a true one. What they demand, though, is
generosity and bravery.”

Twitter and fans – “essential lesson is that every day it gets easier to tighten the
relationship you have with the people who choose to follow you.”
So “if tribes reward innovation, and if initiators are happy, then why doesn’t everyone do
it? Because of fear.”

How do you conquer fear?

“The folks I meet who are engaged and are clearly heretics have actively talked
themselves out of the fear. I mean, the fear is still there, but it’s drowned out by a
different story. It’s the story of the success, of drive, of doing something that matters. It’s
an intellectual story about what the world (or your industry or your project) needs and
how your insight can help make a difference. Lay out a game plan that makes the fear
obsolete. It’s about making it clear to yourself (and to others) that the world is now
demanding that we change. And fast.”

“The new marketing math; ideas that spread, win.”

What people are afraid of isn’t failure; it’s blame. Criticism.

“One bad review doesn’t ruin my day because I realize what a badge of honor it is to get
a bit of criticism at all. It means that I confounded expectations – that I didn’t deliver the
sequel or the simple, practical guide that some expected. It means that, in fact, I did
something worth remarking on.”

“Great leaders focus on the tribe and only the tribe. Not themselves. They’re generous.
They exist to help the tribe find something, to enable the tribe to thrive. Great leaders
don’t want the attention, but they use it. They use it to unite the tribe and to reinforce its
sense of purpose.”

Leaders need to focus on tightening the tribe. Tempting to make it bigger, but tribes that
communicate more quickly, with alacrity and emotion, is a tribe that thrives.

Tools to help tighten a tribe?

- Blogs
- Twitter
- Facebook
- Basecamp

“Discomfort creates the leverage that makes leadership worthwhile.”

Examples of tribes in action:


Curiosity is a key trait of leaders. “Curious people count. Not because there are a lot of
them, but because they’re the ones who talk to people who are in a stupor. It’s easy to
underestimate how difficult it is for someone to become curious. For seven, ten, or even
fifteen years of school, you are required to not be curious. Over and over and over again,
the curious are punished.”

The myth of plurality – you need more than half the votes to win an election. In order to
lead a tribe, no such rule applies. All you need to do is motivate people who choose to
follow you. The rest of the population is free to ignore you or disagree with you or move
on. Fox News didn’t persuade millions of people to become conservatives; they just
assembled the tribe and led them where they were already headed.”

“All you need to know is two things: individuals have far more power than ever before in
history and the only thing holding you back from becoming the kind of person who
changes things is this: lack of faith. Faith that you can do it. Faith that it’s worth doing.
Faith that failure won’t destroy you.”

Music industry is dying for two simple reasons:

1) Music industry executives didn’t have the heretic they needed. No one stood up
and made change happen
2) They forget to embrace their tribe

“Think for a second about the people you know who are engaged, satisfied and eager to
get to work. Most of them, I’ll bet, make change. They challenge the status quo and push
something forward – something they believe in. They lead.”

Every leader cares for and supports a movement. Today you can have a “narrow
movement, a movement in a silo”. How do you create a “micromovement?”

1) Publish a manifesto – give it away and make it easy for the manifesto to spread
far and wide. It doesn’t have to be printed or even written. It’s a mantra and a
motto and way of looking at the world. Unites tribe members and gives them
2) Make it easy for your followers to connect with you – in person, via email, on the
web, Facebook, Ning, etc.
3) Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another – build camaraderie
4) Realize that money is not the point of a movement – the moment you try and cash
out is the moment you stunt the growth of your movement
5) Track your progress – do it publicly and create pathways for your followers to
contribute to that progress

1) Transparency really is your only option
2) Your movement needs to be bigger than you
3) Movements that grow, thrive
4) Movements are made most clear when compared to the status quo or to
movements that work to push the other direction
5) Exclude outsiders – who isn’t part of your movement matters almost as much as
who is
6) Tearing others down is never as helpful to a movement as building your followers

“Secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go
there. People will follow.”

Nonprofit heretics:
“The big win for nonprofits is turning donors into patrons and activists and participants.
The Internet allows some organizations to embrace long-distance involvement. It lets
charities flip the funnel, not through some simple hand waving but by reorganizing
around the idea of engagement online. This is the new leverage.”

“It means opening yourself up to volunteers and encouraging them to network, to connect
with one another, and, yes, even to mutiny. It means giving your professionals a blog and
the freedom to use it. It means mixing it up with volunteers so they have something truly
at stake. This is understandably scary for many nonprofits, but I’m not so sure you have a

Switching tribes:
“As your tribe grows, it’s tempting to accelerate the growth, to find more people to join
the tribe. The most obvious prospects, of course, are already members of other tribes.
People don’t like to switch. Growth doesn’t come from persuading the most loyal
members of other tribes to join you. They will be the last to come around. Instead, you’ll
find more fertile ground among seekers, among people who desire the feeling they get
when they’re part of a vibrant, growing tribe, but who are still looking for that feeling.”

More heretics in action:

Tasmin Little –
Peter Diamandis/The X Prize –

Who cares?
“Caring is the key emotion at the center of the tribe. Tribe members care what happens,
to their goals and to one another. Many organizations are unable to answer the question
“Who cares?” because in fact, no one really does. No one really cares if the menu
changes or if the percentage of fundraising income used for overhead changes. If no one
cares, then you have no tribe.”

“The elements of leadership:

- Leaders challenge the status quo
- Leaders create a culture around their goal and involve others in that
- Leaders have an extraordinary amount of curiosity about the world they’re
trying to change.
- Leaders use charisma (in a variety of forms) to attract and motivate
- Leaders communicate their vision of the future
- Leaders commit to a vision and make decisions based on that commitment
- Leaders connect their followers to one another”

Great leader are great listeners. Listen, really listen. Then decide and move on.


Great leaders embrace deviants by searching for them and catching them doing
something right.

Don’t settle.

Real leaders don’t care about credit. Credit isn’t the point. Change is.

Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Leaders create things
that didn’t exist before.

People don’t believe what you tell them.
They rarely believe what you show them.
They often believe what their friends tell them.
They always believe what they tell themselves.
What leaders do: they give people stories they can tell themselves. Stories about the
future and about change.”

There is no better time than now to act. Lead.

Pass it on.

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